After months of rehearsing and hours upon hours spent in the studio, Nutcracker weekend finally arrived. A Nutcracker season unlike any other I have experienced took center stage – cold temperatures, anxious dancers, and tired parents ready to share the performances and then, wrap up this season, tie a beautiful bow, and call it done.
It was that kind of season.
It was the season in which everything was going beautifully until one dancer broke her leg outside the studio, a group of dancers didn’t have a part so were thrown in and given one of another group’s, and still another dancer broke her arm just days before the performances.
It was the season of changes, adaptations, and mixing things up to make it all come together and work.
And, for the most part, it did work.
Children under 16 turned into professionals prepared to dance with their hearts despite being tired and cast changes.
Given the season of imperfections that preceded these shows, or maybe because of it, the dancers might have expected more of themselves than was realistic… or they might just have expected it of others? I am not sure what the expectations were, but people are not perfect, and these shows were performed by young people.
By the last performance, a mistake made received condemnation and blame back stage from fellow dancers resulting in… tears.
The idea of this is foreign to me. I grew up with baseball – Little League baseball actually. The kids missed balls, didn’t touch bases, and were caught day dreaming here and there throughout their seasons and careers. The understanding was most often – they are kids; and people make mistakes. Learn from it and shake it off as there are other games and other days. I have watched similar behavior in team sports – The football player misses the pass; the team understands that it happens (realizing that it was not on purpose); and they shake it off.
Perhaps the world of the performing arts is different?
Ballet seems to be about each dancer striving to perform as perfectly as possible. It is the practiced execution of movement linked to form the sequence and then the dance. It is the discipline of allowing these movements to tell the story.
Striving to do one’s best – this is something I understand. I am a little less comfortable with the idea of working for perfection as we are… people. Perhaps we can perform perfectly at times, but more often than not, we perform our best continually correcting and changing and adapting.
I have watched professional dancers make mistakes. My guess is that a ballet instructor (or even a dancer) can watch a perfect performance and find that it wasn’t perfect.
However, I am not sure that this is an understood part of the process; especially to young, tired, female dancers?
And maybe this is an aspect of their training that has yet to be reached?
The horror stories I have heard about ballet are just that – horror stories. What happens backstage is not reflective of the beauty of the art or the music or the performance that an audience watches, often spellbound. The tales I hear told are those of competition and a lack of sympathetic joy or compassion…similar to what I observed during the Nutcracker performances this year.
I would like to think that the stories I have heard are the exceptions and not the standard behaviors of these artists and performers. I would like to think that they, like their professional sport counterparts, understand that no one is intending to make mistakes or drop the ball or not perform to their highest potential every time they step on stage.
And if it is the norm – I wonder how companies and performers would change were sympathetic joy and compassion to become a part of their training and performing culture?